Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dogfish Head - Squall

It's definitely time for another craft beer from Dogfish Head.  In fact, my guilty conscience will no longer let me rest until I open and finish this IPA that has been in my presence for far too long.  At least, that's what I tell my wife.  Now, did I intentionally review two beers back to back that involve large sailing vessels on the label?  No.  Is it some sign of spring?  No.  Is it a sign that I should buy a boat myself?  Again, that's what I tell my wife.  That said, the only place I'd rather be drinking this is on a boat.  DFH needs no introduction.  Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
This bottle opened with a violent hiss and then assuaged any startled souls with a relaxing floral  and pine combination.  The pine doesn't last long, but the floral is soon joined and usurped by strong honey and lemon zest aromas.  A nice bready malt balances the lot before a classic IPA smell is achieved by the reemergence of the piney hop note with a new caramel tone.  You'll definitely want to let the head die down on this one to receive the full experience.  This is a classic smell that doesn't have any of the strong alcohol warmth that can accompany some of DFH's bigger brews.  Squall rings in at 9% ABV.

Appearance 2/3
The head is perfectly foamy on this and was moderate in my 2-3 oz pour for smelling.  Pouring the rest of the glass yielded a monster head that will have me exercising caution in my pours for the remainder of the bottle.  I guess I should have known given the *hiss* that greeted me upon prying off the bottlecap.  In its defense, said head does leave fantastic lacing down the sides of the glass.  It is lightly hazy, but still relatively clear for an unfiltered beer, though this has been sitting a while and I assume most of the sediment has settled on the bottom of the bottle.  If the bottle weren't black, I could confirm such things.  The color is an array of golds and other tiger's eye shades and clearly shows a column of carbonation rising from the bottom.

Flavor 19/20
The first impression is a fabulous one!  Rich, smooth caramel rolls over the tongue and splashes to a halt with a light alcohol warmth and bitter.  Holding this in the mouth, the caramel can become sugary at times and mixes insanely well with the brighter honey, faint hop citrus, flakes of pepper, and a notable alcohol burn (the alcohol especially comes forward as the beer warms).  No real different waves of flavor to speak of, simply a cohesive unit of flavors doing their thing.  The finish is a dash of pepper (exacerbated by the prickly alcohol), resin, and that lemon zest that keeps hanging around in the background.  Oddly enough, all these flavors then make a hasty exit for a curiously clean finish!  It's very unusual, but another reminder of all the tremendous things that beer can do.  I really liked it.  The aftertaste continues that cleanliness, but does allow a light bitter to linger along with a very dry mouth.

Side note:  Slurp up some the foam (you WILL have the chance)!  It's all the beer's sweetness if a light, foamy package.

Mouthfeel 5/5
There is so much to love about the mouthfeel in this beer!  The carbonation is lively, as expected in a bottle conditioned ale, and is almost prickly.  Normally, this is something I rather shun in a beer, but in this case the slight prick of the carbonation actually goes well with the peppery hops and the alcohol warmth.  It all mingles together on the tongue for a rather complimentary, if not enjoyable, experience.  I've been waiting since the first sip to write about how SMOOTH this beer is.  Yes, even despite the carbonation.  The first sip was a wash of caramel in a body that is absolutely massive.  You can almost imagine caramel coating your tongue and it is fantastic.  The smoothness continues when the beer "foams" up in the mouth.  I place "foams" in quotes because instead of foaming, the beer instead takes on this wondrous creamy quality and it simply cannot be topped.  Best of all, with the carbonation being slightly more aggressive than usual, it prevents the creamy bodied beer from becoming syrupy or sluggish to drink.  I love that the warmth is part of the experience instead of being some strange offshoot that distracts from the beer as a whole.

The Dread Pirate Roberts takes no prisoners.

Overall Impression 10/10
The mouthfeel of this beer is superb, in case you couldn't tell by the unusually long paragraph used to describe it.  It's not often that a mouthfeel impresses me the most about a beer, but then again Dogfish Head has never been a typical brewer.  The flavors and aromas are few, but blend very well in a focused/teamwork sort of way.  The warmth definitely becomes stronger toward the end of the bottle and eventually begins to permeate every aspect of this craft brew.  It is not unwelcome, but definitely not something that was much of a factor when the beer was first opened.  (Note: Even when first opened, the bottle was at an appropriate drinking temperature.  I believe the alcohol warmth was evoked by the motion of tipping the bottle for subsequent pours and by leaving it open to "breathe" like wine.)

Total 47/50
This is one heck of a beer!  Coming from Dogfish Head, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but this IPA had sat for quite some time in my cellar so I was expecting a bit of a "deteriorated" performance.  Not so.  The aroma was top notch (even without the eventual addition of alcohol warmth), the flavor will go toe-to-toe with any IPA on the market, and the mouthfeel... well, I believe I've already beaten that dead horse.  Another top notch job from Sam and crew at DFH!  This is definitely giving me pause to think, "Why the heck am I saving all these Dogfish Head beers in my cellar?!"  I need to be drinking more of these.  Stat.


  1. I will have to find myself a bottle! This sounds fantastic! I do have a soft spot for Dogfish Head

    1. Well, there might be some bad news on that front, I'm afraid. Squall is no more and "officially" it has been replaced by their 75 minute (2012 schedule says 75 minute will be released in March, September, & December). However, some DFH beers have been known to reappear...

      You can read the official DFH response here: